Swine’s Flesh


Among the creatures distinctly pointed out in the Bible as "unclean," the swine holds a prominent place, yet it has become a common article of food, even in civilized and enlightened nations. We speak particularly of the flesh of this animal because of its nature, and its common and abundant use by many Christians. These people profess to receive the word of God as a rule of faith and practice, and yet that very word says of the swine, "It is unclean unto you. Ye shall not eat of their flesh, nor touch their dead carcass." 1 If it be said that this prohibition is Jewish, and therefore not binding upon Christians, we reply:-  

1. The distinction between the clean beasts and the unclean, recognized at the flood, long before the existence of a Jew, was established upon the nature and habits of the creatures which God had made. This distinction received the sanction of law in the days of Moses; not, however, because God would have an arbitrary rule for the Jews during sixteen centuries, but because the forbidden things were of themselves unclean, and unfit for man to use as food.   

2. The nature of the swine is plainly given as the reason why the Hebrews should not eat of it, nor touch its dead carcass. "It is unclean unto you." With this agree the words of the prophet, which class swine's flesh with the "broth of abominable things." If it be said that these words were given through Jewish prejudice, then we reply that it is the great God that speaks. He changes not, and never speaks from prejudice. Hear him:-     

"I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts; a people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face; that sacrificeth in gardens, and burneth incense upon altars of brick; which remain among the graves, and lodge in the monuments; which eat swine's flesh, and broth of abominable things is in their vessels." 1   

"For, behold, the Lord will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by his sword will the Lord plead with all flesh; and the slain of the Lord shall be many. They that sanctify themselves, and purify themselves in the gardens, behind one tree in the midst [margin, one after another], eating swine's flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together, saith the Lord." 2   

The candid reader, after a careful examination of the chapters from which we have quoted, will entertain doubts as to their application to the Jewish age. In fact, it is evident that they apply to the present age, and that the last quotation, with its threatened judgment for sins, such as eating swine's flesh, applies definitely to the close of the present age.   

Dr. Adam Clarke once said that if he were to offer a burnt-offering to the devil, he should choose a pig stuffed with tobacco. At one time, when invited to ask the blessing at the table, he used these words: "Lord, bless this bread, these vegetables and fruit; and if thou canst bless under the gospel what thou didst curse under the law, bless this swine's flesh."   

God said of the flesh of swine in the days of Moses: "It is unclean unto you." What change can have taken place to make it clean, and a proper article of food for Christians? Has God changed his mind on the subject? Has man so changed that what was unclean as an article of food for the Hebrews has become clean to Christians? Or, has the change taken place in the animal? Has the change from the Jewish dispensation improved the nature of hogs? And does the freedom of the world-wide proclamation of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ give liberty to Christians to eat those things which were an abomination if eaten by the Hebrews?   

"But did not God make the swine?"   

We reply that he did, and that he also made dogs, cats, rats, mice, and toads; not, however, for Christians to eat.   

"Then for what were the swine made?"   

We may not fully understand why God made rats, lizards, and rattlesnakes; but we are very grateful that we are not obliged to eat all the brutes and reptiles which cannot be definitely assigned to other uses.   

The influence of swine-eating upon the human system is in some cases terrible almost beyond description. The word scrofula, which represents a disease very prevalent in our day, the almost endless varieties of which may be named legion, comes from the Latin word scrofa, which signifies "a breeding sow," the mother of abominations. And it may be a question whether the word, or the terrible disease signified by it, would have existed, had man never eaten swine's flesh.   

The very nature and disposition of the swine accords with his gross habits and diseased flesh. We do not say that the moral evil of swine-eating is proportionate to the physical; but we do say that the very close connection between the physical and the mental, between matter and mind, would lead one to conclude that the physical ruin would tend to debase the moral nature. 

1890 JW, BHY 174-176